A Wrench thrown at Heartache

Submitted into Contest #184 in response to: Write about someone who has chosen to disconnect and live an analog life.... view prompt


Contemporary Fiction Drama

Zed stared at the email, knowing once he’d put it down, he’d never look at it again. Strings of letters strung together, forming words, forming sentences, so disconnecting. Jessie, the woman who had been the love of his life, was no more the flesh and blood woman in his arms, her face and her words, now mere pixels on his screen, distintegrating. 

He hurled the computer into his backyard, symbolic, he knew, but using his physical strength felt good. For good measure, he flung a large wrench, shattering the monitor. 

 Eight months later, Zed sat with his mug of coffee in his easy chair and watched the desecration. Beyond the fruit trees and the large old maple in his yard, had always been pastural land. Not today. The construction crew and thier machines had come in and it was all being changed. 

The bull dozers dug up the earth. He feared if he turned his back, they would invade his small plot of land and dig him and his home up and dump them into another heap. 

His coffee tasted bitter. He dialed City Hall, and instead of a person, an automated voice message led him down menus of other automated messages, but never to a culpable human being. After thirty-five minutes of wasting his time, the cheerful voice suggested he go to their website. In other words, piss off.

 He got into his car, an older Chevy he could take apart and fix by himself, not anything with computer bits that would make him beholden to the cardealer and their schemes, and drove down to City Hall. A pimply faced boy of about nineteen with his earlobes disfigured by implanted large rings, took his information on a computer. 

“Your email address.” he said, no inflection of a question, not even looking at Zed. 

“I don’t keep one.” 

“Sir, your email address,” the boy said again.

“I repeat, I don’t have one.” Zed wanted to wring the kid’s scrawny neck and wrench those silly rings out of his earlobes. . 

The kid turned from his computer and looked at Zed, his mouth dropped, a gleaming white stone in the middle of his red tongue. “Sir, I can’t process your complaint if you don’t have an email address.” He fondled the gem on his tongue, moving it around his mouth, and rubbing it against his upper lip. 

“I pay taxes. I have a physical adress, therefore I am a citizen living in the jurisdiction of this city and I’m here to make a complaint.” Zed noticed himself finger pointing and pulled his hand down by his side. There was no need to let this punk get to him.

The kid sighed and typed more into his computer and frowned. “Sorry sir, the system won’t let me enter you.” His face brightened. “I can make up an email address for you. Then you can go to the library and…” 

He stopped mid sentence, and as dim as he was, he felt Zed’s ire. His narrow shoulders shrank in towards his jutting collar bone and he orally fixated with his mouth gem. “I’ll go and get my supervisor.” 

Zed recognized the man, before he put his hand out. Clarence had gained more weight around his belly and had lost more of his hair, and he had dark bags under his eyes.

He blinked. “Son of a gun, Matt, what brings you here?” 

“I go by Zed these days.”

Clarence swallowed. “That’s fine. I’m good with that, Zed.” He said the syllable slowly, trying it out. Then he clapped his hands together. “Gosh, it’s been a long time. What can we do for you today?”

The receptionist had made himself busy with the computer, and looked as if he’d like to dive into the screen and disappear into it.

“Clarence, there’s a bunch of heavy duty equipment ripping up the field below my place.”

Clarence touched his chin. “Er…yes…the new Highlands Estate is going in there. Going to be a real fancy complex, eight buildings, wifi built in of course. Even planning a pitch and put.” He planted his hands on his hips and nodded, as if it were his accomplishment. 

“That’s the thing, Clarence. It’s a bloody fiasco. They’re lowlands, agricultural lands, not highlands for God’s sake. How come there hasn’t been a hearing?” 

Clarence's smug expression dropped, and he shifted on his feet. “Matt, I mean Zed, there was a hearing. We advertised it months in advance.”

“I didn’t see any posters”

“You know, no one looks at posters these days, and they get graffitied up. It’s all on-line, that’s where everyone’s eyes are these days.”

Zed balled his fists. He couldn’t believe he’d once also been so moronic. The internet, the web, connected…it was a crock of shit. In a careful measured voice he spoke. “I live in the physical world, not the digital or the on-line world.”

Clarence chewed his lip a moment. “That’s fine. I understand. I don’t use computeres any more than I have to, but what can I say, can’t live without em. He clapped his hands together and smiled. “So you want to put a complaint in. Eddy, the young fellow here, will help you fill out a complaint form.”

Eddy’s narrow shoulders folded into his chest, at the sound of his name. Obviously too delicate for the physical world. Probably had a really tough ativar. 

Zed felt his patience ebbing. “I’m not making a complaint on-line. I’m making it in person. “

Clarence swallowed. “No problem, just give Eddy your email address, and he’ll type it out for you.”

Zed folded his hands in front of him. “Clarence, you’re not listening.” He refrained from added your brain has been turned into mash from your on-line life, not to mention the dissolution and deterioration of your body. “I do not have an email address. I want a physical form to make a complaint and I don’t mean to be rude, but the two of you have been frittering my time.” 

Clarence’s eyes bulged. “Lands hell, what are you talking about. Of course you have an email. Even my mother has an email.” he gave a chuckle, “though it seems I’m over there every other day, getting some computer trouble or another sorted out.” Then he stopped and stared and blinked, now aware of Zed’s frigid stare.

“For crying out loud, your company installed our system, Matt. I mean, what’s going on, here… Oh sorry, I meant Zed.”

Zed looked at Clarence. “The system is fucked,” he said, and walked out. 

He focused on the door at the end of the hall with light filtering in through the opaque window. People walked by him, preoccupied. Of course, everyone was so damn much into their phones.

Outside the City Hall building, he walked to his car, then he changed his mind and kept walking, feeling the need to burn off energy and anger. As he walked, images of Jessie filled his mind, he walked faster to stave them off, but they kept flooding in.

 He walked city blocks, keeping his head down, mumbling to himself, reliving that final email message. “Matthew, I’m leaving you. Sorry, I’m doing this by email, but if I did it in person, you would talk me out of what I’m doing, and I don’t want to be talked out of the path I have now chosen.”

He had emailed her back, and waited in vain. Countless emails and no answer. When he saw her going into work, after he’d followed her, he couldn’t bring himself to approach her, afraid he could be the monster she thought he might be. Friends had told him that she’d been concerned about a confrontation, and she was doing what she could to avoid him. 

 One day, the pain of checking his email for a response had crumpled him into a ball of tears and nerves, bringing him to throw out his digital devices and ditch his job working with computer systems. 

 He stopped and sat on a park bench. There wasn’t anything he could do to bring Jessie back to him. Since he hadn’t wanted to continue being the Matt, she’d rejected, along with chucking out his digital life, he’d adopted the new name, Zed. It seemed fitting, and while it sounded like z-e-d, the middle letter wasn’t an ‘e’ or any letter, but a symbol of his own design.

He rubbed his hands together; he liked the idea of being a thorn in the side of the city, and looked forward to being more of a nuisance, a walking breathing in-your-face ludite. And damn if it wasn’t great not to be manipulated by pings and dings. 

February 11, 2023 04:06

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